It’s pitched as the *most* important study skill, but why is it so goddamn hard to be consistent with your studies as an adult learner?

When you’re studying alongside a busy life – as a distance learner, mature student or a workplace learner – it’s pretty hard to study in an unchangeable rhythm.

And trying to do so and failing can really bottom out your motivation and mindset.

In this post we’re going to tackle why it’s so hard to be consistent with your studies – and you’ll learn what to focus on instead.

Because I would argue that there’s a more important trait that is *much* easier for adult learners to embody. Nail this and you’ll bounce back faster from studying setbacks, be able to flex your studying around your busy life, become a more resilient, confident learner…all so you can graduate with the grades you really want.

This post originated as a podcast episode which you can listen to below or search for episode 147 of the Chloe Made Me Study podcast. Or, if you’re more of a learn-by-reading student, carry on for the rough-and-ready blog version based on the podcast script.

Ways to listen:

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Today, we’re going to talk about the elusive ‘consistency’ that all the success and habit building advice seems to advise and why this can be hard to achieve as an adult learner. But don’t worry – I’ve got some advice on something that I would argue is more achievable and more beneficial long term.

It’s hard to be consistent with your studies…

…but if you want to achieve your study goals and nab the grades you really want, then you need discipline, right? The ability to get your head down and do the work even if you don’t particularly want to or feel like it.

And the easiest way to be disciplined without using a boatload of willpower is to build habits that make doing the right, productive thing over and over again easier.

Now, when it comes to building effective study habits and being more disciplined – a word that gets thrown around A LOT is consistency.

Consistency is about doing something repeatedly. It’s about building effective habits and routines so that you show up and tick the task off your to-do list frequently. 

Consistency in studying looks like:

  • sitting down every week to reflect on the week just gone
  • starting the week having planned when you’re going to study and your priority tasks to focus on
  • studying regularly, when you say you will
  • making essay plans and working towards planning, writing and editing your work without resorting to last minute, panicked submissions without the time for proofreading
  • prepping for an end-of-module exam by reviewing and testing yourself on core concepts frequently throughout the academic year.

And while it’s hard to be consistent with your studies, it *does* make sense as something to aim for.

Why is consistency so powerful for adult learners?

When you achieve consistency in your study you have to rely a lot less on intensity…which means less late nights or all-nighters, less overwhelm and panic which is a positive for your mental health.

#1 Consistency allows you to tick all the ‘successful student’ boxes.

You give yourself time to plan your studies so you can study more strategically. You give yourself time to execute essays better – giving yourself the time to plan out your arguments, review your work against the guidance, polish your work so it’s clear and concise

#2 You drastically reduce how much willpower you need to use to study.

Brushing your teeth before bed is a habit that’s become automatic so that, for the most part, we don’t have to use too much willpower to do it every day. When we create and build habits like this in our studies – for example, studying most evenings after dinner – our motivation is likely to be higher. This is because consistently studying gives us more evidence than inconsistently studying of doing the thing and making progress – which increases our motivation to do it again.

OK, so that’s all well and good. We *know* that consistency is a great thing to aim for.

But consistency is HARD for adult learners…for numerous reasons.

Why is it so hard to be consistent with your studies?

When you’re studying alongside a busy life of working full-time or part-time, raising a family, maintaining family and friend relationships, looking after your physical and mental wellbeing, looking after a house…your schedule and responsibilities will fluctuate.

You may have the best of intentions to study three evenings a week after work but work gets busy and you can’t. And you may have the best intentions to start every week with a solid, smart study plan but life happens over the weekend and you have to prioritise other things. You may have the best of intentions to work on an essay over a few weeks, giving yourself plenty of space to write something great…but you or a family member become unwell and you lose half your writing time.  

Add in that consistency is difficult for students who struggle with their mental health. When a low day, week or month hits it can be tricky to even manage basic self-care, let alone prioritising furthering your education. 

And consistency is also tricky if you have a “spicy brain.” Students with ADD or ADHD may struggle with attention regulation because their brains are more interest-driven than importance-driven. So in the moment it can be really tricky to focus your brain on important, future-you tasks and follow through with them. Added to this, neurodivergent learners may struggle with working memory which can make it hard to remember the habits you’re trying to build and be consistent with.

Now, I’m going to make some more content soon on *how* to be more consistent and also how to study with a “spicy brain.”

But for the rest of this episode, I want to share with you that all is not lost.

Yes, it is hard to be consistent with your studies. But there is something more valuable for adult learners to cultivate.

And that, my friends, is PERSISTENCE.

The value of persistence for students who find it hard to be consistent with your studies

So while consistency is about doing something repeatedly, with the same standard of success and failure every time…

Being persistent is about pushing past obstacles and staying committed to your goal despite setbacks. Persistence requires problem-solving to overcome challenges and find new methods to achieve your goal. And persistence is about being resilient so you can pick yourself up and keep trying again…and again…and again.

#1 Persistence accounts for setbacks and challenges.

If you wanted to study Monday and Tuesday evening after work but you didn’t, consistency would say you’ve failed…which will make it harder to force yourself to study the rest of the week.

But persistence would say, “hey, I know this wasn’t the result you’d hoped for, but that’s OK. You’re an awesome and resilient student so let’s crack on and see what we can get done on Wednesday.”

#2 Persistence allows you to wipe the slate clean.

Persistence allows for wiping the slate clean, drawing a line in the sand, turning a new leaf…and any other fresh start metaphors you can think of!!

#3 Persistence acknowledges that success isn't linear.

And it acknowledges the external forces and events that are acting upon us. As a non-traditional learner who’s studying alongside a busy life – it’s hard to be consistent with your studies because it’s not just as simple as setting an intention and sticking to it. We need back up plans and skills for prioritising and reprioritising as our commitments shift. And we need the mindset to be OK with this process.

I see this all the time. The students who struggle are those who fall apart when things change. If they can’t start their essay on Monday as planned they go ‘screw it’ and don’t bother starting for the rest of the week. If they set an intention to study all day Saturday but they sleep in and procrastinate until lunchtime, they believe they’ve failed and sack off the whole day. Whereas the students with persistence acknowledge these setbacks and lean in rather than run away. They understand that perfection is not a requirement of success and they crack on and do what they can to make the most of their situation.

It’s these students I see in my membership, the Kickbutt Students Club, who are smashing their goals. They’re encountering defeats all over the shop but they are not becoming defeated.

So, if you’re a student who finds it hard to be consistent with your studies, I’d invite you to hold the idea of persistence in your mind this week and beyond.

When you start to feel the pressure and unrealistic expectations of consistency, instead remind yourself that persistence is the real key to long-term progress and success.

You’ve got this!

The next steps to powering up your persistence and consistency

Now if you think developing the powerful traits of consistency and persistence would help you to have an easier, more successful study life – then I’d highly recommend you join the waitlist for the Kickbutt Students Club.

The KSC is *the* place to develop the skills and traits of a successful learner. You’ll get accountability support to help you come up with these study plans and *actually* stick to them. A big part of the support in the membership is working out what to do when life happens – the persistence part.

If you find yourself stuck or suddenly your plans just aren’t achievable, I’ll be on hand Monday to Friday to help you reprioritise and come up with a new plan that sees you move towards the results you want without overwhelm, stress and unrealistic expectations. 

The KSC is for adult learners studying any subject because the advice and expertise I offer is always tailored to your unique situation. When you ask questions on how to best take notes / plan your studies / revise for exams / write essays – I’ll use my 7 years of experience teaching 100s of non-traditional learners to help you come up with the best solution for your course, goals, learning style, learning needs and situation.

Ultimately, the KSC offers you accountability, coaching and advice to help you build the habits, routines and confidence you need to achieve *your* idea of academic success with more ease and in less study time each week. The membership includes day-to-day coaching, community, accountability support, virtual study sessions on Zoom, study skills resources – a whole smorgasbord of awesomeness to support you on your studying journey.


Click here to find out when the next enrolment period is. Join the waitlist for early access and a waitlist-only offer.

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How to Actually START Your Essay

Workbook + video training to take you from procrastination and overwhelm to understanding your question and mapping out your ideas with momentum. Easier, faster essay writing (and higher grades) await.

Start Your Essay

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